Friday, August 10, 2012

Protect Yourself From ID Theft

I just spoke to a friend of mine that has discovered someone on the East Coast is using her identification and has used credit in her name. ID Theft is exploding throughout the country and the losses hurt in more than just a financial sense. Most states in this country are credit states which means they use your credit score to determine your cost for insurance, interest rates you pay on a loan or your ability to get credit. So, even though you are not at fault, you can prove that you are not at fault and the source of the complaint acknowledges that you are not at fault it can still affect your credit score.

To get an idea how big a problem this has become, over 10 million people in the United States discovered that they were victims of identity theft last year. ID Theft is used in financial fraud to steal from your bank accounts, your credit cards, your social security payment, your IRS tax refund and more. ID Theft is used in criminal activity to use your identity to commit a crime, enter another country, get special permits or commit acts of terrorism.

You can limit your risk of Id Theft by through prevention:
1.            Be extremely protective of your PIN number when you are using an ATM
2.            Change your passwords frequently and don’t use the same password for all of your accounts
3.            Shred credit card receipts. Don’t just tear them up, buy an inexpensive shredder and shred the  documents.               
4.            Don’t leave your mail in your mail box for extended periods of time. If your mail box is unsecure consider getting a post office box or a mail box with a clocking container.
5.            Know who you are giving your credit card information to
6.            Run your free credit report each year and review to make certain that all of the records reported are yours.
7.            Review your credit card statements and note any suspicious charges. Do the same thing with your bank statements.
8.            If you lose a credit card report it as stolen immediately.

If you discover that you are the victim of ID Theft here are some steps that you can take to prevent the loss from costing you money and damaging your credit.

1.            Keep a complete record of how you discovered the theft and the steps that you took.
2.            If the theft was more than a $1,000 report it to the local police. You will need a police report when working to get your money back and limit your liability.
3.            Report your theft to the Federal Trade Commission at  
4.            Order a credit report immediately and check your credit:       
5.            Contract each of the three credit reporting agencies to report the theft:

Trans Union       Report fraud      800-680-728
Order copy of report:     P.O. Box 390       Springfield, PA 19064      Or call: 800-916-8800
Dispute information in report:
Call number provided on credit report or use "investigation request form" provided by TransUnion when you order your report.
Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit and marketing lists:      800-680-7293
Equifax:              Report fraud     800-525-6285
Order copy of report: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Or call: 800-685-1111
Dispute information in report: P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256 Or call the phone number provided in your credit report
Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit: 800-219-1251 (California only) Or write: Equifax Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta GA 30374-0123

Experian:             Report fraud:     888-397-3742

By mail: Experian National Consumer Assistance Center P.O. Box 9530    Allen, TX 75013

Order copy of report:     Experian National Consumer Assistance Center P.O. Box 2002    Allen, TX 75013  Or call: 888-397-3742
Dispute information in report: Contact Experian at address and phone number provided on your credit report
Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit:   Call 888-567-8688

6.            Place a security freeze on your credit file to prevent additional ID Theft

I hope that you don't need to go through this process as it is painful and time consuming. However, the odds are that you will experience ID Theft at least once and it is important to know what steps to take. There are a number of services that you can subscribe to help prevent ID theft and will help you get back on your feet if you should become a victim. Also, most homeowner's policies have some minimal coverage that can be added on to the policy. Talk to your agent to find the service and coverage that will work best for you.

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